Dangers of social media are real, yet it is a part of every day communication in today’s society. This generation of young people have no recollection of pay phones or ever being dependent on snail mail. In their world, those things are eligible for placement in the Smithsonian. Their communication has become synonymous with Twitter, Instagram, Tinder and Facebook. Young people eighteen and under have never known a world without these things. Social media is a major part of their daily communication.
The challenge is that when words, statements are typed behind a screen how easily words can be taken out of context. Statements become misinterpreted and our young people are getting in over their heads before they can blink an eye. The dangers of social media for teens is real and only increasing in urgency and frequency. My belief is that we need to be proactive instead of proactive. Knowledge is power.
How to identify the dangers of social media for kids
A tweeted, “What are you thinking?” is interpreted a dozen ways. In a matter of seconds an innocent inquiry can be misconstrued into a full out Twitter war. Peer confrontation and banter that was once limited to backyards, playgrounds and cafeterias has become open game on cyberspace. These issues were more self-contained and handled between peers, parents, relatives or counselors. With a simple tap on their screen anything goes and that is a frightening thing. The dangers of social media for teens is real and staring us in the face.
When words become weapons….
Kids have no concept of how words can paralyze through words. This is often via when another person will write and hide behind a screen. With little hesitation, a taunt and threat can be written as a comment on Instagram or a reply on Tinder. Words that are intentional or unintentional are placed out for the world to see. Whether the bullying, threat or taunt was meant literally or figuratively it doesn’t matter. Once those words enter cyberspace there’s no turning back, no opportunity to justify or hit delete. Here is where law enforcement, the school principal, law enforcement, lawyers and psychiatrists get involved. There is no fluffy, hug-it-out time to explain true intentions. This is where the dangers of social media and teens access and frequency of use has red flags all over it.
Law enforcement & schools don’t mess around with this stuff….
Kids have ended their lives over being bullied on cyberspace. Young people have caused harm to their peers emotionally and physically due to threats made. It’s a different world with implications that fit its severity.
So where do we go from here? We need to chat with our young people about establishing boundaries, have them well versed with the implications that accompany impulsivity. It’s emphasizing that it is not ok to vent or taunt someone under any circumstance, but especially in cyberspace. Our kids need to be reminded to do their homework or clean their room and this needs to be placed above those things in frequency of discussion.
What are some phrases that our kids might post that can lead them into hot water?
- Saying, “I’m going to beat you up” or….
- I’m going to kill you
- I want to end my life
- Statements indicating harm to another human being
- Anything threatening to cause physical damage to property
- Slandering someone’s race, sexual orientation, religion
Social media has allowed any word or statement to be placed under a microscope. There is no rewind button once send is hit. These words may have been written as a cry for help. Maybe it is out of impulse or with the intention of harm upon another person or place. But the parameters are set and it is imperative that our young people are aware of the levity of their words. If they need help, resources are available. Counseling and learning how to heal and communicate is an amazing thing. To exchange words with the intent to harm the young person can face criminal charges. That’s a heavy weight to carry, but one that is fully justified in this day and age.
The dangers of social media for teens dissipates with parent / guardian involvement. That’s the truth.
Dialogue has to occur between child and guardian. They cannot fathom the magnitude their words can have on another human being. This can be positive or negative. Words can uplift and words can tear apart. We cannot allow our kids to not be accountable when it comes to access with cyberspace and social media. If kids are given full reign good things can not come of this. I can assure you.
Have their passwords to social media sites, dialogue about what they are or aren’t posting and encourage them to chat with you if something is posted by a peer that makes them concerned or uneasy about that person’s safety. Powerful things can come from ongoing dialogue. Setting boundaries and parameters not only keeps your presence in the back of their minds. It also allows them to reach out to you if they are in a position if they are concerned about a peer.
Our words have the ability to make an impact on our young people’s future and way of thinking; you can do it. Wishing you an awesome remainder of the week!
Peace, love and goodness!